Last Sunday, I have had the pleasure to cycle to a local flea market again. I can’t even remember the previous opportunity, except that it was too long ago. In 2020, there was a time in Belgium when the COVID-19 data told politicians that it was okay to let people organize bigger events again, albeit it being in open air. The result was yet another lockdown, a few months later… Data doesn’t spill the beans when it comes to human behavior. Thus, all big indoor retro fairs got cancelled, and markets were put on a leash for a long time.
Fortunately, things are looking up again! Traditionally, the Belgian summer brings—next to days of sunburn followed with the obligatory days of thunder and rain—the beginning of the flea market season. A couple of big local ones are normally being organized around this time, but since some non-profit organizations ran out of money and motivation in 2020, we have to make do with less (and with masks, but hey, it’s better than nothing).
You always encounter these amazing stories when it comes to thrifting. In the awesome LGR Thrifts show, it seems that big box PC games are always up for grabs, while I myself have yet to see a single one appear. And then there’s these impressive storage room deals and equally cool looking toys in pawn shops. A few years ago, I was really happy to buy Donkey Kong Land II for
€10. The cartridge looked like a one-off on the vendor’s table, next to the usual junk. I’ve yet to beat that lucky break, even though according to Game Value Now, the price was just on point. But I was happy!
I usually end up with counterfeit GBA carts (watch out with sellers that have too many games, they’re usually sharks), broken pieces of electronics, or a genuine Parker fountain pen that, when thoroughly expected back home, turned out to be a cheap Chinese knock-off. Whoops.
That’s not to say that I do not enjoy strolling around on these markets—far from it! I’ve learned to temper my expectations. But just take a bit of money with you, because if you don’t, you’ll see something awesome you can’t buy! As this guide to collecting video games states:
A solid flea market is not only a great place to snag video games, it’s also two tons of fun.
Although I do contest the first bit, unless you’re looking for Barbie’s Groovy Games or FIFA 2007. Perhaps eBay is more effective. But who cares, I’m just glad I can mingle among others on the street again. Precautions are still taken as you can see on the photo: streets are not only littered with used masks (really, who does that?), but also with alcohol gel dispensers attached to crush barriers that manage people flow.
So what do we usually end up with? Dog toys. That’s right. Our Golden Retriever loves soft teddy bears, and these hand-me-downs are dirt cheap (and frequently torn apart). My father-in-law always asks us to be on the lookout for retro analog phones. He usually disassembles the unit to give the rotary dial a second life, although the last one just ended up being thoroughly cleaned and simply put into a cabinet. Old electronics are always appealing, but I have yet to spot an ISA PC card, and it’s impossible to determine whether or not the thing still works. There are still so many hardware trinkets on the wish-list!
Last Sunday, I cycled home with six DVD boxes of Midsomer Murders, while my wallet felt
€40 lighter. A sticker at the bottom of a box claimed the previous owner paid
€30 per box, so money well spent I guess. DVDs aren’t particularly collectible, so they’re not worth much. After watching Death in Paradise and Are you Being Served (Again), we were dying for some more great British series. In case you did not notice this yet, we dislike subscription-based media and like physical media. I almost feel obligated to write that sentence, as I can almost hear the “Netflix, you fool!" comments.
I’m looking forward to the next happy discovery!